Ghosts of Halloween Past

It seems like only yesterday I was trekking around the neighborhood with a paper bag. All the kids on our street in Albuquerque went around together. I can barely recognize myself in the photo above. I think I see my little sister there, but I have to guess at the others. I think three of these kids moved away soon after this.

How simple things were back then. A mask and maybe some odd pieces of clothing was costume enough, which is good, because that’s all my family could afford at the time while my father was going to the University of New Mexico on the GI Bill. But it wasn’t just a matter of economy. Costumes fifty some years ago were generally simpler and more imaginative.

So were the goodies. I remember orange and white candy corn, and orange “circus peanuts.” Maybe a few jaw breakers or sticks of chewing gum. In later years there were a few mini-Hershey bars, and some people gave out iced sugar cookies or cupcakes. Some spoil sport always handed out the “untreat” — an apple.

Until the year I was in sixth grade, I generally went out trick-or-treating with the other kids from the neighborhood. That year I decided I was too old to go. But ... as the doorbell rang nonstop, nostalgia grew strong. It was not enough to simply hand out goodies to others. I wanted to be out in that crisp night air, bag in hand, one more time! So, I created the perfect excuse. I quickly cut out and crayoned a mask for myself from a brown paper bag, and stuffed my 18-month-old brother into his red snow suit, turning him into Santa Claus with the addition of a taped-on wad of cotton for a beard. He was clueless, but hung onto the paper bag I gave him. I took him around to ten or fifteen houses, and introduced him to the fine art of snagging candy.

At Halloween I always remember a story my mother used to tell, with a large smile on her face, about how she and her friends went around tipping over outhouses. Today I realize how suspect that story was. I’ll bet she was in a group that did one outhouse, one time. It is true that she lived in tents near the road construction sites her father oversaw for months a time, but that was when she was very young, and during the summer. There were precious few outhouses to be found in town by the 1930s when she was the right age for such shenanigans. Still, the story is lots of fun to envision. I never did anything more horrible than smearing Ivory soap on a few windows.

Halloween has changed so much from then to now. Power Rangers and princesses have displaced simple masks and hobo getups. Infants are stuffed into strawberry suits. Yard and home decorations are nearly as elaborate as Christmas. Or so it is other places. Not at my house! I've become the Halloween Grinch, but that's okay, because for years no children have bothered to invest the time and effort to hike half a block up the street and climb our steep, hundred-foot- long driveway for a small candy bar.

Write now: about some of your favorite Halloween memories. Did you have elaborate costumes, or make-shift ones? Did you have parties at school? At home? What were your favorite treats? Do you have more recent stories about trick-or-treating with your children, or any unusual door-answering tales?

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal


Grannymar said...

My Halloween memories are very different I have them in a Podcast today over at

Why not come and have a listen.

Decaf, please said...

Great story about taking your little brother trick or treating! I remember that feeling as well, except I didn't get any treaters at my house because we lived in the country.

Nice photo too.

- peggy (moonslice from aw)

JoJo said...

Tonight as my own g'babies are out t-or-t-ing, along with the black lab puppy in a police dawg costume, I have manned the front door for 5 or 6 groups of kiddos. My own son, aged 25, walked with the babeez, and prior to going commented to his sister three years older and mama to the g'kids, "Do you remember when we were 5, 6, 7, and trick or treating, we just WENT. We didn't have to have parents along. We didn't worry about the safety of the treats. or the places we called on.

Tonight as I watched my g'daughter (age 3) dress up as a princess tothe max, and my g'son (age 6) do his own imitation of Darth Vador, having no idea how many DV's are out there.....and seeing the 5-month old lab/golden mix seem to perceive his costume meant something.....I realized for a brief moment how magical life iz, if only we realize that it is.


Ritergal said...

Grannymar has lots of podcasts. Sort of makes me wish I had an iPod!

This one is a delightful twist on the usual Halloween tale, and well worth a listen

ybonesy said...

I LOVE the photo of your Halloween Past. Your parents were so good about documenting family life, it seems.

I went trick-or-treating until the "old" age of 15. I remember people saying, Aren't you a bit old to be out here?